The first thing I noticed about UNSW is how large it is compared to the College of Charleston. This explains a lot of key differences between these two schools. UNSW has tens of thousands of students on a primarily commuter campus, so there isn’t a strong sense of community you get from living on campus back home. In fact school spirit is really subdued here in comparison to the US. Most students I see wearing UNSW merchandise are foreign students as many Aussies don’t feel allegiance to their uni the same way we do in America.
The classes are also structured very differently down in Oz. They have two forms of each class you take; lecture and tutorial. Lectures are the stereotypically large rooms filled with hundreds of other students while one presenter rambles on about the subject. A tutorial is a smaller class aimed at engaged learning with the material taught in a lecture. I like tutorials more in my own personal learning style. As I hands-on learner, I need to be stimulated during learning, and listening to two hour lectures straight isn’t way to do that. Having smaller class sizes is something I appreciate in Charleston.
Lastly, there are no letter grades in Australia. Things are broken down as such: High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, and Fail. High Distinction is equivalent to an A+ and goes from 85-100%. Distinction is an A and is between 75-85%. A Credit is a B and goes from 65-75%. Finally a Pass is a C and that is 50-65%, while a fail is anything below. This grading scale might seem generous compared to the US but professors are much stricter graders here. Very few people in the class get above an 85 as those are reserved for the highest performing students. In the Honors College we are expected to get mostly above 93% and get A’s to be in good standing. Here there isn’t as much pressure in grades as they don’t define academic life. That is something I appreciate about the Australian university system.